On May 15, 2014, The New York Times published an interview with Jimmy Page. He’s remastering Led Zeppelin’s catalog again. I have no problem with his concern about Led Zeppelin’s legacy but then they get around to talking about Led Zeppelin’s music being sampled:
Q. In part because of Led Zeppelin’s classic riffs, you guys are right up there with George Clinton and James Brown as sources for samples. And, of course, you did something yourself with Puff Daddy involving “Kashmir.” So how do you feel about your music being sampled for hip-hop records?
A. In a creative sense, it’s fantastic. Even if you don’t play an instrument, you’re writing new things. These guys come up with some amazing work, in the electronics and the mixing. I find it really fun to listen to. As far as the business side of it, however, the issue of sampling is thorny. The problem is people not getting paid for performances, Across the board, they are being pirated. Their music gets played, and they don’t get paid. I have a problem with that. I really do.
Q. You’ve also been on the other side of that debate, especially on the first couple of Led Zeppelin records, where you were criticized for using the material of Chicago blues greats, especially Willie Dixon, without acknowledging their authorship.
A. Yeah, but he got credited.
Q. But only after a lot of legal wrangling, so I wanted to ask in retrospect how did that happen, and once it was brought to the attention of your management, why did they resist it?
A. I had a riff, which is a unique riff, O.K., and I had a structure for the song that was a unique structure. That is it. However, within the lyrics of it, there’s “You Need Love,” and there are similarities within the lyrics. Now I’m not pointing a finger at anybody, but I’m just saying that’s what happened, and Willie Dixon got credit. Fair enough.
As I’ve said elsewhere, Led Zeppelin is among the greats. Yet I’ve always been bothered by their resistance to cite their sources, even after their not only their success was assured, but their lasting legacy, as well. What this interview shows is that over the years Jimmy Page has learned to choose his words carefully–saying “not getting paid for performances” as opposed to not getting paid for creative work or songwriting, for example–and he’s skillful in framing the issue in such a way as to minimize his own plagiarism. Instead he implicates Robert Plant in Led Zeppelin’s history of not properly citing sources, even though there are numerous examples where he was unwilling to give credit where credit was due (for example, “Dazed and Confused“, “Boogie With Stu”, “Black Mountain Side” and “Tangerine“). Whether the lift was Robert Plant or his own, Jimmy Page had no intention of giving credit to a variety of songwriters and only did so under threat of legal action.